Beowulf: Age Of Heroes by Jon Hodgson, David Rea and Jacob Rodgers (RPG review).

March 22, 2021 | By | Reply More

‘Beowulf: Age Of Heroes’ is an expansion to ‘Dungeons And Dragons 5e’ and so it assumes you have access to the basic Player’s Handbook to play it. As an aside, you won’t need the ‘Dungeon Master’s Guide’ or ‘Monster Manual’ as rules for those sort of things are included here.

It’s the middle book.

Available as either a nicely presented and beautifully illustrated hardback or as a PDF, the book presents details on the Whale Road, the ‘early medieval, mythic setting’ where your version of the story of Beowulf takes place. Right off the bat I like that the text makes pains to point out that there have been many translations of the poem and that the game isn’t aiming for 100% historical accuracy. Instead, it presents a good blend of historical detail and mythic unknowns to evoke an epic world of Christianity, pagan gods, monsters, mead halls and, above all, heroes.

This is where ‘Beowulf: Age Of Heroes’ will either appeal to you or not because, while it does allow for traditional parties, it’s predominantly aimed at ‘duet play’, with one games master and a single player. There are various clever rule additions and changes to accommodate this but fundamentally it still comes down to whether you’re looking for the intimate ‘pressure’ of a one-to-one roleplaying session or not.

Certainly playing online over this last year has shown that large roleplaying groups are difficult to manage through Hangouts or Discord and the like, with conversations lacking their normal flow and a lot of waiting around. So, if anything, this is the ideal time for a game which only needs two people to play. But, on the other hand, that setup also means the single player is always in the spotlight, with no time to sit back while another character takes centre stage or to play off what someone else has just said.

Something else to consider is that while the book includes rules for developing your hero over time, the ‘arrive at a hall, find out about the monster, then defeat it and move on’ structure of the game feels like it will be ideal for one-off or irregular play sessions.

You’ll need to decide if these aspects make ‘Beowulf’ the game for you or not. Some of my friends love the shared storytelling idea behind the game but others roleplay for the social aspect and obviously this isn’t for them. Still, if you’re looking for a small-scale game with a poetic feel or even a sourcebook that could inspire ideas for ‘Lord Of The Rings’ or ‘Pendragon’ then ‘Beowulf: Age Of Heroes’ could be just what you’re looking for.

If you’re still unsure then check out ‘The Hermit’s Sanctuary’ https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/306721/BEOWULF-The-Hermits-Sanctuary?, a free adventure with enough rules to get you started and which nicely showcases the game’s ‘monster of the week’ setup.

Stuart Maine

March 2021

(pub: Handiwork Games. 272 page book or pdf. Price: £39.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-9160119-5-3)

check out website: https://handiwork.games/beowulf



Category: Fantasy, Games

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